Citroen C4 Picasso 1.6 HDi (2006) review

Published:20 September 2006

Citroen C4 Picasso 1.6 HDi (2006) review
  • At a glance
  • 3 out of 5
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  • 3 out of 5

That looks a fancy bit of modern art.

Very funny. But you’re right – it’s the latest success from C4/C6 designer Jean-Pierre Ploué. And a crucial new seven-seat compact MPV. Thanks to romping parents, Zafira, Touran and Grand Scenic are romping up the sales charts and Citroen wants a bit of that – particularly given sister company Peugeot’s disinterest in Europe’s fastest-growing car sector. Basing it on a stretched C4 platform has freed up cash to splash on gadgets, gizmos, and probably the best-quality interior ever to wear the double chevron badge.

But I’m confused. It’s a new Picasso – so how come it still has the same name as the old one, which remains on sale until 2009?

Because Citroen reckons it’s onto a good thing with the Picasso name - “our ‘Verso’ brand,” said the MD. And it can hardly rename the old car: throw in a deal it somehow struck with the Picasso estate to extend its licence, and suddenly you’ve emphasis on the ‘Xsara’ and ‘C4’ parts preceding the cubist’s name. No, we’re not fully convinced, either. Particularly as this is so much better than the old 306-based clingon, primarily though its extra rear seats. Not that we argue with Citroen showing a child using them in the press shots, mind – as per the breed, they’re not for adults. The middle row is much better, and wider than any rival, though the seat’s firm bases leave you feeling perched.

Am I drunk? That windscreen looks distorted.

That’s probably the fumes from the pongy in-built air freshener. You’re right though – the windscreen is panoramic, wrapping deep into the roof and giving an extraordinary view out for all to appreciate. Thin windscreen pillars and large quarterlights mean you won’t be panoramically watching a hidden cyclist spear in front of your eyes at junctions, either. Sounds glassy? It’s inspired Citroen to call it a ‘Variospace’ car - another tenuous sub-class.

Picasso didn’t half stir controversy with some of his pictures.

That’s the worst link I’ve ever read but I suppose I’ll play along: he did, and Citroen is doing the same with its gearboxes. EGS, its first new ‘box in 20 years, is a modern sequential manual. Sharp-shifting, efficient, safe (two hands on the wheel at all times) but jolty with it, it’s the future, according to Citroen: the 2.0 HDi is only offered with it.

Is it dynamically square?

Well, the wheels aren’t – soft suspension, in the French tradition, gives a cushy ride on smooth roads. There’s even pneumatic self-levelling at the rear on some models, enabling Citroen to adopt such absorbency without spoiling fully laden poise. A touch more damping control over faster undulations wouldn’t go amiss though, and it’s a shame rougher roads realise some tyre grumble, while wheel patter over intrusions introduces noise and underlying irritation. And the achingly vague and over-assisted electric steering is typically Citroen. Still, adapt to the roll angles and it handles tidily, with bags of grip and a feeling of involvement. It at least has character, not something you can say for all MPVs.

Lolloping ride, low noise levels… I’m feeling sleepy.

These available features will rouse you: it can measure parking spaces and say if you’ll fit; has aircraft-style light strips in the dash, doortrim and sunvisors; offers colour-adjustable instrument lighting; has two air con units; switches on lights in the door bins as your hand approaches; laminated side glass; standard cruise control and ESP. And there’s more, but not enough space to say what. Basically this is the tecchiest MPV you can buy which makes the ageing 127bhp 1.8-litre and 143bhp 2.0-litre petrol engines even more disappointing. Far better are the 110bhp 1.6-litre and 138bhp 2.0-litre HDi diesels. Even though they’re slightly noisier than the class-best, they’ll take two-thirds of C4 Picasso sales, with the 1.6-litre selling most.

Verdict

£15-£20k will be the price range of the Picasso (sorry – C4 Picasso: forgot again…), when it arrives in January 2007. It’s without a sporty bias and generally the better for it, with a roll-along feel that’s well complemented by easy-going diesels although we’re not so sure of Citroen’s push of the semi-auto. Meanwhile, the looks are sharp, interior a treat and while it’s not as massive as Citroen reckons, the kit count and level of tech is impressive. A potential compact MPV masterpiece? Don’t be surprised if it gives rivals the brush-off.

Specs

Price when new: £16,795
On sale in the UK: January
Engine: 1560cc 16v turbodiesel four, 110bhp@4000rpm, 191lb ft@1750rpm
Transmission: Six-speed sequenial manual, front-wheel drive
Performance: 0-62mph in 12.7sec, 111mph, 47.8mpg, 155g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1530kg/steel; plastic wings
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4590/1830/1680

Rivals

Other Models

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  • Citroen C4 Picasso 1.6 HDi (2006) review
  • Citroen C4 Picasso 1.6 HDi (2006) review
  • Citroen C4 Picasso 1.6 HDi (2006) review
  • Citroen C4 Picasso 1.6 HDi (2006) review
  • Citroen C4 Picasso 1.6 HDi (2006) review
  • Citroen C4 Picasso 1.6 HDi (2006) review
  • Citroen C4 Picasso 1.6 HDi (2006) review
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